Safety Considerations With Glass Balustrade Systems

With the recent tragic events at Grenfell Tower, and the consequent findings of unsafe cladding used on many other buildings, personal and public safety is currently top of the agenda in the construction industry. Glass balustrades are becoming an ever increasingly popular architectural feature and as with wrongly specified cladding, the wrong type of materials used in their manufacture and installation could prove fatal. This was seen in Australia recently where variations in temperature caused poorly manufactured glass balustrades on one building to explode; raining sharp shards of glass on to the ground below. The glass specified for their installation was imported cheaply with fake compliance certificates, and was installed with faulty construction materials. Luckily on this occasion, there were no fatalities or injuries but what if people were leaning against the glass balustrades or walking underneath when it happened? Consequences could have been the thing of nightmares!  Glass balustrades that are manufactured to meet building regulations offer a perfect safety barrier to prevent serious injury or death.  This short blog article will discuss the health and safety issues to consider when adding glass balustrades to your property.

Height Restrictions

The required height of a balustrade varies depending on the type of building it is being installed on and whether it is for interior or exterior use.  For external glass balustrades, the minimum required height is 1.1 metres from the point of standing.  Therefore, careful consideration should be given when the balustrade is to sit on a wall.  If the wall can be stood on, it is from the top of the wall that the balustrade should be at least 1.1 metres high.

outdoor frameless mini post glass balustrades

Glass Thickness

The thickness of the glass panels used varies depending on the balustrade’s design, its location, whether a top rail is used or not, and the type of building it is to be installed on to.  For this reason, Elite Balustrade Systems offer a range of glass thicknesses from 10mm to 21.5mm in order to meet specific installation scenarios and building regulations.

Glass Type

Two types of safety glass should be used for the installation glass balustrades.  These are toughened (tempered) glass, and laminated glass.  The manufacture of toughened glass involved heating the panel to around 700 degrees celsius before putting it through a rapid cooling (quenching) process.  This creates a strong outer layer on the panel and locks tension inside its inner core making it at least five times as strong as normal glass.  In the case of the glass panel breaking, it will do so into small pieces rather than sharp shards in order to prevent injury.  Laminated glass uses two normal glass panels separated by a resin layer.  In the case that the glass smashes, this layer keeps the panel in tact, therefore leaving no hole to fall through or no sharp shards of glass to cause injury.  Again, the glass type used depends on the balustrade design chosen. For instance, for frameless glass balustrades without a top rail, we recommend 17.5mm thick laminated glass panels whereas our framed systems use 10mm thick toughened glass.

Glass Balustrades cracked

Load Requirements

The pressure that glass balustrades must be able to withstand before failing is measured in kN/m (kiloNewton per metre).  This requirement varies depending on what the building is used for, and how light or heavy people traffic is.  For external glass balustrades on domestic properties, the load requirement stated by UK Building Regulations is 0.74kN/m.  In other words, every metre length of a balustrade should be able to hold the complete weight of a person weighing 75 kilograms at the same time.   All of Elite Balustrade’s systems meet and exceed this legal requirement.

Quality Assurance

Glass balustrades are only as strong as the surfaces they are being fixed on to and the actual materials being used for fixing purposes.   At Elite Balustrade Systems, we have a dedicated design team who can assess the suitability of our balustrade kits against specific installation scenarios.  In general, they can fix on to timber, steel, or concrete but we will always advise the best possible solution.  Most of our components are manufactured from Marine Grade 2205 Duplex stainless steel for superior corrosion resistance and durability.  This includes our popular Mini-Post frameless glass balustrade designs.  Elite Balustrade Systems have been accredited the Made In Britain marque which guarantees that products are manufactured in our UK based workshop to the highest British standard.  Furthermore the strict ISO 9001 Factory Control System is followed to ensure all UK Building Regulations and Standards are met.   Being CE marked, customers can also be reassured they are investing in a product that is designed to last.

If you are contemplating an external glass balustrade and have any queries about their suitability and safety for your own requirements, please do not hesitate to call us on 01254 825594 or by email  at sales@elitebalustrade.com.  We look forward to providing you with the best possible advice.



Published: 14th August 2017

Read All Articles